Saturday 16 July 2016, 14.00, Netherdale 3G

More friendly action, this time between Lowland League side Gala Fairydean Rovers and Morpeth Town from the Northern League Division One.

The side from Galashiels joined the Lowland League from the East of Scotland Football League in 2013.  At the same time the club changed its name to Gala Fairydean Rovers, following a merger between Gala Fairydean and Gala Rovers.

Netherdale, or The 3G Arena, has been the club’s home since 1929 and is located next to the rugby ground.  The ground’s stand was designed by architect Peter Womersley and built in the mid-60s. The stand has a capacity for 750 spectators and the ground as a whole up to 4,000. The cantilevered concrete structure is protected as a Category A listed building.

Gala finished in a disappointing 11th place in the fourteen team league last season and have signed goalkeeper Jamie Newman, defender George Windram, midfielder Darren Smith and striker Danny Simpson.

Gala started their pre-season very early, playing an Airdrieonians side on 18 June, before playing Hearts Under 20s later in the month.  They’ve already played a Berwick Rangers side this month and are ensuring they are ready for the new season.

Morpeth Town play their home games at Craik Park in Morpeth. They were founded in 1894 following the amalgamation of Morpeth United and Morpeth F.C. and played their home matches at Stobhill Cricket Field.  They moved to their current home in 1994 and won the Northern Alliance title for the second time and with it promotion to the Northern League Division Two for the 1994–95 season. The following season they were promoted to Division One as champions. In 2007 Morpeth beat Blyth Spartans to win the Northumberland Senior Cup at St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United.  In May they won the FA Vase, the competition for all teams outwith the top four leagues in England.  They beat Hereford 4–1 in the final.

Chris Swailes became Wembley’s oldest goalscorer, when he scored the equaliser at Wembley.  It was just over two years since the 45-year-old fell ill while playing for Dunston UTS and having to have his heart restarted three times. Swailes, who has since undergone four lots of heart surgery, returned to the playing ranks earlier this year after ending a spell as assistant manager to Martin Canning at Hamilton Academical.   Further goals from Luke Carr, Sean Taylor and Shaun Bell wrapped up the win for the Highwaymen.  Carr and Taylor start for Morpeth today.

Morpeth played at Hawick Royal Albert the night before and beat the new Lowland League side 5-1.  They’ve also played a closed door friendly at Kilmarnock.

Defender Matthew Grieve has signed from Ashington, returning to the club after one season away.

Traffic being busier than usual meant we missed the first couple of minutes.

Carr played the ball down the left to Williams in the 9th minute but his dangerous ball across the face of the Gala goal had no takers.

A minute later, Gala came forward and a great ball by Smith found McColm out wide and his pinpoint cross found the head of Simpson, who made no mistake in giving the home side the lead.

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In 14 minutes, Aitchison was caught in possession and Carr charged towards goal, but Main managed to block to prevent a quick equaliser.

Aitchison looked to make up for his error with a fizzing drive in 17 minutes which went just wide of the Morpeth goal.

Morpeth got back on level terms in 18 minutes.  Forster played the ball forward to Carr, who played a clever ball behind the defence for Henderson, who buried it in the bottom corner.

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A great move by Morpeth in the 21st minute ended with the ball coming to Carr’s feet in the box, but he miscued his shot badly and it ended up going out for a throw.

Carr quickly made amends when he received the ball on the left from Williams in 28 minutes.  He cut inside and hammered a shot into the far corner to give Morpeth the lead.

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Hay was inches away from getting on the end of a cross into the Morpeth box in 33 minutes as Gala tried to get level again.

With three minutes to half time, Henderson was through for Morpeth, but Newman got down well to save.

A good first half and Morpeth look a good side.  Forster, Carr and Henderson seem to be involved in everything going forward for them.

In 51 minutes, Stephen played a great ball to the back post to Hay, but Provett saved the downward header with his feet to preserve Morpeth’s lead.

A chance came for Gala in 56 minutes, but Hay was surrounded by defenders and his shot was blocked, when Simpson was free on the far side.

Gala continued to search for an equaliser and Simpson set up Lamb on the edge of the box in 57 minutes.  He hit his shot powerfully, but Provett saved well.

On the hour, Gala did get their equaliser.  A bad goal kick from Provett came straight to Simpson and he raced into box and slid the ball under the keeper.

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Forster produced a thundering drive at the Gala goal in 62 minutes and Newman was helpless to stop it, but it came back off the underside of the bar.  Henderson tried to follow up, but the keeper was there to save.

In 65 minutes, a Morpeth corner was taken by Carr and found the head of Johnson.  His close range header was blocked by Newman’s feet, but rebounded off Johnson and into the net to put Morpeth back in front.

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Two minutes later, there was almost a carbon copy as Carr’s corner again found the head of Johnson, but this time defender Allan managed to get something on it and it came off the bar before being cleared.

Morpeth’s Henderson had a shot at goal in 83 minutes, but Newman held it well.  A minute later at the other end Hay had a chance for Gala, but a great block by Reid diverted the ball wide.

Gala were finishing strongly and Allan had a great chance with a free header from Smith’s corner, but he headed over the bar.

Morpeth were still showing good quality though and a great through ball by Carr sent Taylor through, but Newman managed to stop his attempted lob.

With two minutes left, Berry cut the ball back into the Morpeth box and Hay missed the ball completely, but it fell to McColm, whose shot was tipped over the bar by Provett for a corner which came to nothing.

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An excellent game of football and Morpeth looked a quality side.  Gala never gave up and showed some great levels of fitness.  Simpson certainly looks like a good signing.  Many of the Morpeth team were involved at Hawick the previous night.

Full Time: Gala Fairydean Rovers 2 Morpeth Town 3.

Admission: By donation.

Gala Fairydean Rovers: 1 Jamie Newman, 2 Lee Stephen, 3 Dean McColm, 4 Michael Allan, 5 Scott Main, 6 Ben Herdman, 7 Darren Smith, 8 Ross Lamb (Berry 70), 9 Danny Simpson (Robertson 70), 10 Jack Hay, 11 Ross Aitchison.  Subs: 12 Marc Berry, 17 Stewart Robertson, GK Tom Kerr.

Morpeth Town: 1 Jim Provett, 2 Danny Lay, 3 Chris Reid, 4 Michael Hall (Johnson 45), 5 Matthew Grieve, 17 Matias Fondato (6 45) (Graydon 78), 7 Sean Taylor, 8 Stephen Forster, 9 Liam Henderson, 10 Luke Carr, 11 Brandon Williams (Chilton 78).  Subs: 12 Michael Chilton, 14 Paul Johnson, 15 Keith Graydon, GK Neil Harrison.

Referee: Alan Hogg

Programme: None. (Free team sheet available in café).

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